Domestic Affairs

The Broken College Admissions System

Seemingly out of nowhere, the elaborate college admissions scandal that recently surfaced garnered national attention and shattered headlines. Prosecutors indicted over 50 people, including prominent businessmen, CEOs, a doctor, a lawyer, two famous actresses, and a slew of college coaches and standardized test administrators. From 2011 to 2019, parents made payments totaling $25 million to the mastermind Rick Singer and his fraudulent “college counseling service,” The Key Worldwide Foundation. The uncovering of the scandal was truly shocking. However, this is not new. It affirms what everyone familiar with the college application process already knows: the American college admissions system is broken and biased towards the rich.

The facts of the recent scandal show the lengths that wealthy parents will go to in order to ensure their child’s acceptance into elite schools. The organization instructed students to lie on their applications and resumes. Bribed college coaches reported these students as athletic recruits, even if they had never played the sport in their life. Corrupted test proctors helped students cheat during the tests, or to change their answers afterward. Some students even falsely claimed to have disabilities in order to receive extra benefits, like additional time and the ability to take the test in a room by themselves with the aforementioned proctors.

It is an unspoken and inevitable truth that the children of wealthy parents have access to a substantial amount of luxuries that help increase their chances of getting into good schools. For one, wealthy parents can afford to send their children to the best schools, tutors, etc. These children are safe from the psychological and medical dangers that children from low-income families often experience. They do not have to worry about anything other than getting into what they consider to be good schools. Even when these forms of investment are not enough, parents who want their children to attend their alma maters often ensure their acceptance by donating massive amounts of money to these schools. Undoubtedly, these children are set for life. However, the actions of wealthy parents’ that benefit their children come at the expense of others.

Students whose parents helped them buy their way into college are arguably taking away a spot from a well-deserving student with fewer resources. Colleges and universities are just like businesses and people: they are enticed by the prospect of more money. They see no problem admitting a student, some at the bottom of their high school classes or with much lower test scores, in exchange for large donations. What they do not seem to consider, however, is how this hurts a student from a low-income environment with stronger academic credentials. Catering to the rich comes at the expense of more deserving and hard-working individuals. It takes away a chance that could help an underprivileged student escape their situation and attend an elite school.

Likewise, many aspiring college athletes have their chances of competing at the college level taken away from them when these wealthy students try to take advantage of the lowered admission standards for incoming athletes. Some privileged students blatantly lied on their applications about the extent of their involvement in these sports. The bribed coaches signed them up as recruit s, only for the students to either fake an injury or drop-out from the team. The college sports that were most involved in the scandal, such as tennis, soccer, and rowing, already have limited spots each year for aspiring athletes. Giving these spots to unqualified applicants just so coaches can get more than their already above-average salaries is absolutely horrendous. It crushes the hopes and dreams of aspiring student-athletes…for those who have put their whole lives into their sport and wanted to continue that passion into college.

Parents will do whatever is best for their children. Consequently, this can cloud the judgment of wealthy parents who engage in illegal, and even legal, activities to ensure their child’s acceptance into elite schools. These legal avenues should not even be allowed. A wealthy individual should not be able to use a large donation to bribe colleges to admit their students. In a perfect world, they would be doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. Legacy admissions must be emphasized less, as the academic merit of one does not necessarily constitute the academic merit of their offspring. These two heavily- and legally-designed ways for wealthy parents to ensure their child’s acceptance need to be nullified. In doing so, it would create a more equal playing field for other students who do not have the luxury of having rich parents.

The response to the college admissions scandal has been loud and proactive. Already, several class action lawsuits are in progress. Students sued the schools involved in the scandal, claiming that they were robbed of the right to an equal review of their application and a potential spot in the school. People are sick and tired of the bias and preference provided to wealthy families by society and are now actively doing something about it. Already, colleges and the NCAA have responded with stricter review processes for potential student-athletes and their credentials. Even here at UT, the U.S. Department of Education is actively reviewing our admission practices. They are also serious about cracking down on those students that have been admitted in such unethical ways. Many students’ enrollments are under question and those fraudulently admitted students for the upcoming fall semester have had their acceptances rescinded. How far will the recent scandal help change the broken college admissions system? It is hard to say, but it has shed light on a phenomenon that has long played into the class struggle that defines our society. However, it may be a step towards remedying the system that could create a much more equal playing field for all applicants.


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